CHANDIGARH: With children infected by COVID-19 feeling anxious as they adjust to isolation wards and PPE-clad doctors, health authorities in Punjab and Chandigarh look to keep them occupied with board games, cartoons and regular counselling.
At the Jalandhar civil hospital, two sisters who tested positive for COVID-19 have been given toys and a carrom board to keep them busy, while at the PGIMER in Chandigarh, children infected with the virus are kept engaged with cartoons on TV and drawing sessions.
Keeping these children busy in isolation wards is proving to be a challenge in itself for the health authorities.
"We have given them carrom board and ludo to play in order to make them comfortable," said Jalandhar Senior Medical Officer Kashmiri Lal.
A television set has also been installed in the ward, he added.
Lal said the two sisters, aged six and seven, tested positive after their grandfather contracted the disease.
"Our psychiatrists also counsel them regularly so they feel at ease," he added.
Psychiatrists said convincing parents to being their children to the hospital is one of the biggest challenges.
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"The biggest problem is to convince them to bring the kids here as they are not ready to come," said Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, PGIMER, Swapanjit Sahu.
Once they reach the hospital and are admitted to the isolation ward, they often get scared as they have never experienced an environment like that before, Sahu added.
The children see doctors in PPE kits which they have never seen before and then start crying, he further said.
"We talk to them through video-conferencing to counsel them so their anxiety level goes down.
"We try to tell them that their parents are fine and they will be at the hospital for only some time," Sahu told PTI.
Coronavirus positive children the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh have at least one of their family members also infected with the virus admitted for treatment, officials at the facility said.
Children are also given digital copies of comics on WhatsApp, said Sahu.
"They even watch (cartoons) 'Motu patlu', 'Mowgli' on YouTube. Even crayons are given for drawing. We try to keep them busy," he said, adding that it helps them develop a bond with the children so they do not create any problem during sampling.
The children also get to talk to their family members through video-conferencing to make them more comfortable.
"We play musical rhymes on Youtube and give them pen and paper to scribble," Sahu added.
Currently, four COVID-19 positive children a one-month-old, a six-month-old, a one-and-a-half-year old and an eight-year-old are admitted to the PGIMER, Chandigarh.
All of them are asymptomatic.
On Sunday, an eleven-month-old baby girl, along with her mother, was discharged from the PGIMER after they were fully cured of the infection.
"Though both mother and daughter were stable physically but psychologically, it was a very stressful experience to stay isolated.
"The mother reported significant distress during her stay at the ward and was consistently counselled through video-conferencing to address her anxiety and anger. Despite testing negative, she had to stay for a long period of time as her baby had tested positive," said Sahu.